Aimee reached out to me via Instagram. She said that she wanted to tell her story but was having a hard time finding the words, and even wondering if her story was worth telling. That broke my heart because every single one of your stories is worth telling! Her comment further cemented in me the fact that this blog and this website are necessary. I'm so thankful that she reached out and opened up because I know her story will help someone else dealing with loss and that is worth everything.
“This isn’t a viable pregnancy”
I felt all the air rush out of my body in that moment and then the shaking began. It took a few seconds to realize the shaking was because of the sobs escaping my mouth. Tears streamed down my husband, then boyfriends face. The doctor continued, it had stopped growing at around 6 weeks. Maybe we could try again when the timing was better, she said to me. I walked out of the office like a stone.
I didn’t even know that I needed to worry about my pregnancy, thoughts of loss hadn’t even crossed my mind. When we went in for our early ultrasound at 9 weeks, we were excited and all smiles and it wasn’t until the tech said things weren’t right and left the room that I began to get scared. When everything was said and done, so many people told me “lots of first time pregnancies end in miscarriage and go on to have successful pregnancies”. After research, I realized it was more common than people think, especially first time pregnancies. I was utterly devastated by the loss, but felt hope that we would go on to have a successful pregnancy.
And we did, about 3 years later we welcomed a little girl, but not without some challenges and a whole lot of worry. Where the first pregnancy I didn’t even know to worry, this time around I couldn’t think about anything but. I felt cheated. I never got that carefree pregnancy with excitement and joy. I was so incredibly stressed out the whole time. Family encouraged us not to tell people until 3 months. They made comments like “we are excited for you, but don’t want to get too excited.” They meant well. It still added to the stress. Nevertheless, it all worked out and we had a beautiful baby girl who was healthy. We felt like the stars were ours!
Around the time many people ‘averagely’ begin to try again, we actively started trying again for another baby. Our little one was two at the time and it felt right. It took almost no time at all to get pregnant. We once again shared the joy with family and close friends, who were ‘cautiously optimistic’ for us. I worried, but the worry was less. After all, we had a healthy baby girl already, so my body surely knew what to do. I was about 5 weeks along when the spotting started and immediately I was wrecked. I couldn’t believe this was happening again. I tried to remain hopeful when we went in for an early ultrasound to see what was going on. I knew from experience that there was not heartbeat able to be seen. We mourned another loss. I hadn’t even really told anyone this time, so not many people knew what was going on.
This went on two more times in that same year. Each time, we thought we had figured out what was going on. MTHFR defect. Low progesterone. Each piece of the puzzle was worked on, and each time we had a loss. I stopped even telling close friends I was pregnant. I was almost embarrassed to tell anyone. 4 miscarriages. 3 in the same year only months apart. Some of my closest friends still don’t know how many times I was pregnant. My family refused to get their hopes up and that drove me deeper down. Each time my parents would say “Don’t even tell us, we don’t want to get our hopes up before we know if it’s going to be ok”. They didn’t say it to be mean, they were grieving too.
My poor daughter. She really didn’t understand why mommy was sad and mad all the time. Not to mention what the up and down of hormones in my body was doing to me. The feelings that I had inside were so conflicting and made me feel so bad about myself. I was so so sad, but also angry at the world. I felt mad at my body for not doing the right thing. I felt like less of a woman, why couldn’t it do the one thing its biologically supposed to do. I felt guilty, a lot. The guilt would eat me up sometimes. We had a child. So many others tried harder and longer and I had what they wanted and why wasn’t I satisfied? That feeling ate me up. I felt utterly selfish to want more. I felt guilty for my daughter. Here she was, perfect and healthy and I was sad and unable to play with her. I wanted to scream at myself. You are wasting her childhood, I would think in my head. I never talked to anyone about those thoughts because I felt like a monster saying that stuff out loud. It was a lonely time.
It took more time than I’m proud of, but I got to a healthy place where not only together with my husband we decided, but mentally I decided, that if we never had another baby it would be ok. That seems like such a silly thing to write, but I had to actually get to that place of knowing that it would be ok. There was a time I didn’t think it would be, or that I would be ok. I allowed myself to enjoy our life and the memories we’d build as a family of three. I even allowed myself to venture thoughts about the future and what that might look like for us. I never wanted my daughter to feel like she wasn’t enough, she was so very much enough. We toyed with adoption someday and weren’t opposed to it. I got physically healthy, quit a job I hated and began working for one of my best friends. We bought a house and just began to live our lives. I was finally able to start participating in it again.
We made a decision to try- one last time. That if it didn’t work out, we would just be done and move forward and life would be ok. I don’t think I would have been able to try again if I hadn’t gotten to that place. You may think it’s silly for us to even tempt fate again after all that loss, but somewhere deep inside me was a knowing that it was going to work out however it was supposed to. I medically had gotten a few more answers about my low progesterone and was in the best mental and physical shape I’d been in in a long time. And we welcomed another baby girl a year ago this March.
I get that not everyone’s story has a happy ending. I like to believe that if it didn’t work out the way it did that I would have stayed in that healthy place of knowing that life would be ok. I found that talking to others when we were going through it helped and I vowed that I would always be a safe place for others to turn to if they had similar thoughts or feelings around loss. The taboo around miscarriage still exists and it is such a lonely place for women and men to navigate. Maybe they won't feel so alone one story at a time.
I am a full time, working mom taking care of two spirited girls with my husband, trying to find balance in life. We live in sunny Arizona with our 4 pets.
You can connect more with Aimee on Instagram @jaynaim1
Carey was one of my very first birth clients. From the moment I met her she exuded kindness and grace and she brought those traits into the labor and delivery room with her. She is gentle and caring and the epitome of what you'd expect a mother to be. But just because someone carries the traits of a good mother doesn't necessarily mean that motherhood will come naturally to them. Here is Carey's story of how she learned that sometimes becoming a mother takes time and that's ok.
When I was pregnant, I could never get enough of two things: strawberries, and birth stories. Luckily, it was summer and strawberries were easy to come by. But no matter how many birth stories I found, I learned eventually that I still hadn’t found the one I needed to read.
I devoured them in books about childbirth, sought them out on my favorite blogs, and even just straight-up Googled them, always hungry for more. In page after page of articles titled “The Story of Benjamin” and “Zelie’s Birth” and “How Cece Was Born”, I immersed myself in the tale as old as time of a mother’s labor and a baby’s first breath.
My favorite part of each one was the moment when the baby was placed in their mother’s arms for the first time. Whether by c-section or vaginal delivery, the journey was over and the joy of new life overwhelmed everything else.
It seemed like every single woman said that experience changed her life. They described feelings of overwhelming, unimaginable love pouring out for their babies in that moment, changing who they were and making them truly a Mother.
I couldn’t wait to meet the little October pumpkin kicking around in my belly. I wanted to have that special moment with him, too. We waited and waited and waited, but he was too cozy to move.
Eventually, my induction was scheduled and we arrived at the hospital, ecstatic that it was finally “baby day!”. Or, so we thought.
Forty-eight hours later, there was still no baby. Demoralized by boredom, discomfort, and disappointment that my dreams of natural childbirth were slipping away, it was a huge relief when I was finally dilated just enough for them to break my water and real contractions began.
Thinking about those hundreds and hundreds of women who had labored before me and lived for me to read about it, I tried to power through contractions that were unlike anything I had imagined. I tried to relax, moan, reposition my body, and use my husband and my doula to help.
Eight hours later, still no baby, and not enough progress. Feeling exhausted and a bit defeated, I accepted an epidural and was immediately thrilled with my decision. I was finally dilating quickly and felt incredibly cozy and relaxed, but I was still really tired and couldn’t sleep.
Four hours later, my dilation had completely stopped. My baby’s heartbeat was starting to drop the tiniest bit, and I knew that even if I were to finish dilating, I had no energy left to push.
My wonderfully sweet doctor made the decision, and I agreed. I only cried a little bit when she told me.
I couldn’t believe how quickly everything happened after that point. It seemed like they were still prepping me for surgery when suddenly, we heard our baby crying and they were showing us his tiny, red, screaming face. I craned my neck from the operating table to watch them clean, weigh, measure, and diaper him, then observed, mesmerized, as my husband pulled him close to his chest for his first kangaroo care.
Finally, it was time for my huge, life-changing, mother-making moment. Stitched up and back in bed, I was ready to hold my baby for the first time; ready to feel more love than I thought was possible.
It didn’t happen.
My little Rory glared up at me with enormous, bright eyes. I stared at him. He was the coolest, cutest, most incredible thing I had ever seen, but I felt numb.
I snuggled him close, shielded his eyes from the bright hospital lights, and tried to nurse him. We settled down in our hospital room for our first night with a new baby and my husband, exhausted, fell asleep quickly. I stayed awake almost all night, trying to process what had happened.
The next day, I typed in a note on my phone that I hadn’t expected a rush of love hormones to appear on Day 2. But they did. I started to feel a little better about having lost my ‘moment’ the night before.
We were released from the hospital and took our baby home. We introduced him to our friends and family and adjusted to being new parents. My scar slowly healed and began to fade.
People would admire my baby and then turn to me, gushing, “Isn’t it just the most incredible feeling of love? Like nothing you’ve ever felt before?”
“Oh, yes!” I would gush back. But it wasn’t.
Despite doing all the ‘right’ parent things and thinking my baby was just about the greatest human around, I still didn’t feel like a mother. I had worked in infant daycare and loved all the babies in my nursery. A couple of months in, Rory felt less like my own son and more like an extra cute daycare baby who just happened to be around 100% of the time. I almost expected his ‘real’ parents to show up, chat about his day, and disappear with him.
I hated that feeling. Why didn’t I feel the overwhelming, unimaginable love that it seemed every other mom had as soon as her child was born? Why didn’t I feel like a completely new person? Would the feeling of not belonging to Rory ever go away?
You hear stories about mothers with such powerful love for their children that they can move with superhuman speed and lift with superhuman strength and give up their own lives to save their babies from harm. I thought about these stories and compared myself to those mothers. I felt like the same selfish, self-preserving person I had always been. If something happened to Rory, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to react in the same way. The baby who lived with me deserved better.
But slowly, things started to change. Rory learned to smile and coo at us. I started to connect with him. We learned how to tell what Rory liked and didn’t like. I nursed him full time. We noticed how much more peacefully Rory slept in bed with us at night. I felt a twinge of pride when it became clear that Rory preferred me to anyone else. Somewhere in these little milestones, I became a mother.
My baby is now five months old and I can say without a doubt that I love him overwhelmingly, unimaginably, and impossibly. I would do anything for my little buggy and I can feel myself growing as a person and as a mom.
I wish I had read somewhere that sometimes, becoming a mother doesn’t happen in a moment. Sometimes it takes a few days or weeks or months of adapting and learning to love your baby.
Babies take time to develop. Now I know that moms do, too.
Carey Helmick is 22 and lives in Virginia with her husband, Kyle, and baby Rory. She likes to cook for loved ones, rummage through thrift stores, and play the ukulele. She also blogs at raisinghelmicks.com and puts cute pictures of her baby on Instagram at @careyhelmick. Please get in touch if you'd like to chat some more!